SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is launching a major new effort with Caltrans to clear homeless encampments away from state roads.
Caltrans, which is the state's Department of Transportation, says homeless camps located along roadways and under bridges create many dangers.
"It's a safety risk for them, for the infrastructure, for our staff, for first responders, and potentially for the traveling public, and that's why we remove encampments," said Alisa Becerra, Caltrans spokesperson.
The state has approved spending an additional $299 million toward the effort to get people off the streets. The money will be distributed as grants to local cities and counties.
Becerra said the hope is that people found sheltering along state roadways "are moved into housing, that they're given keys, keys to their future, to life, to hope."
The areas that will qualify for the new encampment enforcement efforts are "any piece of land being used for transportation purposes," Becerra said. That includes bike paths, park and rides, and highways.
Homeless advocate Bob Erlenbusch says many people living under bridges and freeways are looking for relief from the weather.
He says more than a half-dozen people died on Sacramento streets from the cold last winter.
"I understand why people use the underpass because, especially, [in] this kind of weather, once it starts raining at least, it provides a little cover, a little bit of shelter," Erlenbusch said.
Caltrans says more than 5,000 encampments have already been cleared. The governor says this new round of funding is expected to get at least 10,000 people off the streets.
"The public has had it," Newsom said when announcing the new efforts. "They're fed up. I'm fed up. We're all fed up."
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